In 1996, a Gorilla Carried a 3-Year-Old Boy to Safety

May 30, 2016 1:13 pm Last Updated: May 30, 2016 10:20 pm

The top story over the Memorial Day weekend was about a 4-year-old boy falling into an enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo before zookeepers shot the ape. However, it’s not unprecedented.

Two decades ago, a 3-year-old boy fell nearly 20 feet into a gorilla enclosure at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois, resulting in a much different result. A female gorilla, named Binti Jua, carried a boy to safety after the boy slipped into her enclosure. That 3-year-old 20 years ago—much like the 4-year-old over the weekend—climbed through a barrier after slipping away from his mother, ABC News reported.

In the ’96 incident, the boy in the video is seen lying on the ground before Binti Jua picks him up around the waist and carrying him to a door as rescuers waited. The 150-pound gorilla was also carrying a baby gorilla, Koola, on her back the whole time. 

Binti Jua, who is still alive, is living at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. Her daughter, Koola, also gave birth to her daughter, Nora, in 2013.

The 3-year-old suffered cuts to his face and a broken hand. He was never identified.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, a 17-year-old gorilla, Harambe, was shot and killed by a zoo employee as the boy was between his legs. Officials said the boy’s life was in danger as Harambe, who is 450 pounds, was an “extremely strong” animal in an agitated situation.

Cincinnati Zoo President Thane Maynard told Cincinnati.com that the gorilla was dragging the boy around for 10 minutes before the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team used lethal force against it. Some witnesses claimed the gorilla was protecting the child at one point.

“The choice was made to put down, or shoot, Harambe, so he’s gone,” Maynard said. “We’ve never had a situation like this at the Cincinnati Zoo where a dangerous animal needed to be dispatched in an emergency situation.”

Following the gorilla’s death, tens of thousands of people have signed petitions asking for the mother of the 4-year-old to be criminally charged.